Sunday, January 20, 2013

Piles of Presents--a sermon for Ordinary 2C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Piles of Presents
1 Corinthians 12.1-11
20 January 2013, Ordinary 2C

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, 
to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.


I’d like you to take a moment to think about a favorite gift you have received. Maybe it was a birthday present, or it was wrapped in shiny paper under the Christmas tree. Maybe it was a surprise gift from a friend, or an experience someone took you on. What is your favorite present? No fair saying things like “my kids,” either!

Take a moment now to share with the person sitting next to you what your favorite gift was.

Would anyone like to share theirs for all to enjoy? 

(okay, I had a hard time choosing one, but it's my blog! lol)
Christmas 2005, my dad gave me a trip to Italy (I was living in Egypt, so it was close...) 
There were a number of awesome presents in this pile, including a Wii!

birthday 2012...awesome.

When I started thinking about this question, I realized that I have two categories of favorites. I love to receive gifts that I will use often—like my birthday VitaMix that gets used nearly every day, or my Christmas electric kettle now sitting in my office, waiting to make us all a nice cup of tea or cocoa. The other category of favorites is experiences—and this is my favorite kind of gift to give, for sure. I love being able to go places or do new things or take friends to do something they love—to share the time and experience together. This Christmas, for instance, I took my sister in law to see her favorite musical, and we had a great time. Last year my dad gave me tickets to Wicked for me and a few friends, so we could have an evening out together—a two-fold awesome gift!

Of course there’s another kind of gift too—the intangible kind. We may give someone the gift of time spent together, of a listening ear, of prayer, of a hug just when they need it most. We may treasure the day we received someone’s casserole of love, or their silent presence in a hospital room, or their hope carrying us along when we had none to spare.

And we have all received gifts from God, too, through the Spirit. We may not want to recognize them, or we may insist we have none, or we may hope for one gift when really we’ve been given another. We may think our natural abilities and the skills we’ve developed are our gifts. We may wish we could return the gifts God gives us for something easier or more fun or more in line with what we want. But the reality is that, unlike Santa—who asks what we want—God tells us what God wants, and gives us the tools—not the treats of Santa Clause’s sleigh—to accomplish God’s vision.

God’s vision can often be summed up in just one word: transformation. We are to be transformed, and so to be a part of transforming the world into the kingdom of God. When we use the gifts God gives, we can’t help but be changed, even very slowly, into the people God calls us to be…and then we can’t help but be agents of grace, of justice, of peace, of hope, of love—the things that truly change the world. This is precisely why the Spirit’s gifts are given—for the building up of the body. We are not gifted with faith in order to rejoice in our own strength of will for becoming so faithful—we are gifted with faith in order that we might put it into action for the common good. We are not gifted wisdom or discernment or the ability to teach or sing or communicate with many different people only so we can delight in our abilities. Those gifts are for the purpose of building up the kingdom of God in the here and now.

There is a saying that has become a bit of a cliché, but is true anyway: “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.” That’s what these gifts are about—they are the tools God gives us for the calling God has for us. Which means that one way we can start figuring out who God calls us to be in this new time in this place is to look at what presents are being piled up among us. The Spirit’s gift-giving habits change throughout our lives as our calling changes. The Spirit blows where she will, after all, and who knows where God might call us next! Our gifts may lead us to ministries that would not be our first choice. Our combination of gifts as a church community may mean we are called to things we can’t even imagine right now. It’s exciting, but also scary! There are so many unknowns, so many uncomfortable possibilities, so many challenges—but that’s what gifts are for! This pile of presents is here so that we can navigate the new adventure God has in store for us.

So I invite you to spend some time pondering—not talking to God, just listening and thinking and wondering—what do you think God has given you? It could be something on this list Paul gave us this morning, or something on his list in Romans 12, or it could be something else entirely—the gift of humor, of music, of compassion, of wonder, of making phone calls, of drawing or sewing or cooking. Just make a list of all the gifts God has given you. Once you have a list, look at it and wonder with God what that list might reveal about who God is calling you to be and what God is calling you to do. Check with others whether they see those gifts in you—we are Presbyterians, after all, which means we do our best discerning in community! Maybe even wonder together about what this set of gifts might mean for God’s church in this place. Who are we called to be, and what part of God’s vision for the world are we called to carry out? Our gifts are the best place to start that conversation, because there’s one with your name on it, and they are always given to us for a reason.

Let’s start opening that pile of presents!

May it be so. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is really nice, Teri. I like the contrasts you put throughout. Gifts are things we know about, but spiritual gifts aren't what we think.

    Thank you.

    See you soon!